Unbreakable vulnerability game

I’m not sure if I really need to include a spoiler alert for a movie from Y2K, but if you haven’t seen the movie Unbreakable and don’t want the plot spoiled read no further.

The other day my wife mentioned the scene below and I was thinking about the immense power of it. It strikes me as an example of vulnerability game*.  For context, here is part of the plot summary from wikipedia:

The worst offender is a sadistic janitor holding a family hostage and torturing them inside their home. On a rainy night David follows the janitor back to the victims’ house. After freeing the children he is ambushed by the lurking janitor who throws him off a balcony into a pool below, where he nearly drowns but is rescued by the children. He then strangles the janitor. That night he is reconciled with Audrey and the following morning, secretly shows the newspaper article of his anonymous heroic act to his son.

*It is more an example of vulnerability game to the audience than to the wife, since she hasn’t just witnessed his feats of alpha strength the way the audience did.  As Roissy explains the power is in the contrast and you don’t want to overdo it.

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53 Responses to Unbreakable vulnerability game

  1. 30-Something Woman says:

    Some people seem to think a man should never show any vulnerability, but I agree that, used sparingly, it can increase feelings of closeness. It has to do with him trusting her enough to show a weakness.

    If I recall correctly, there was a scene in Unbreakable where he had a nightmare and went to her. Maybe that was in the clip though. I didn’t watch the clip because my computer is running slow today and would take forever to load it.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Oh yeah, the Roissy “tell an insane story about being scared of bunnies” scheme. Even something real like vulnerability has to be slapped with the game label and done in careful calculated amounts.

  3. Pavol Kudlac has a take on the contrast involved. He has a specialized version of game that he applies to specific cultures as a world traveling game employer.

  4. Nutz says:

    I’ve found that showing vulnerability needs to be doled out in very meticulously controlled amounts, and used sparingly. ESPECIALLY if you’re seen as a strong stoic type. Showing vulnerability, then bouncing back to alpha provides contrast and gives women an emotional push-pull effect that they’re so attracted to.

  5. Dalrock says:

    @30-Something-Woman

    If I recall correctly, there was a scene in Unbreakable where he had a nightmare and went to her. Maybe that was in the clip though. I didn’t watch the clip because my computer is running slow today and would take forever to load it.

    Yes that is the scene, but the nightmare was more of a metaphor for what he had just witnessed/experienced.

    @Empath,
    I get it, you don’t care for game. Please be sure to share this with great frequency.

  6. Actually if that’s what you think , with respect, you don’t get it.
    Anyway, nuff bout dat

  7. Does the vulnerability thing work for married men? I think Im not out of line asking that since I thought the point wasnt to celebrate PUArtistry, but to apply game to LTR at least, married at best.

    I would not think that me playing the vulnerability feint would do much, after 22 years that may be laughable.
    Genuine curiosity is it applicable?

  8. I slipped yesterday and caught myself, cut up my hand and had about a 2 ft. welt running up my side, I got a little queasy and laid down after letting my wife see. I showed her that I was tough by not whining about it, but that I was vulnerable because I had gotten hurt. The best way to “play” this is understatement, being tough but still showing that you hurt. That seems like a way to express vulnerability in a marriage (and still keeping it honest). Remember that what we want is respect rather than sympathy.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Funny thing is, actual resilient personalities who naturally lack emotionally vulnerability (see Steve McQueen’s character in Bullitt) will blithely both admit all kinds of vulnerabilities such a described here and talk about things that upset everybody else at the same time because they have the basic security to do so everyone else just lacks. (Other people will be confused and scared because they can’t relate to it once they realize the “loser” they wrote off isn’t thrown by things that scare the piss out of them.) Vulnerability game is just that, a game; insecure people avoid anything that might scare them and show only token vulnerability (to a women into whose pants they want to get) after some douchebag display of social dominance that would get them killed at an inner-city bar, and (presto) they get some action. But posturing is some much more important than actually doing anything, you know.

  10. I have found “vulnerability game” not to be a good idea. Speaking from a 26 year long marriage. Other women may be different, but my wife dislikes shows of weakness.

    A bit sad really, because I have a sentimental side.

    She once let slip that she likes “big, cuddly, authoritative teddy bears”. Authoritative teddy bears don’t get to be vulnerable.

  11. 30-Something Woman says:

    I wouldn’t like shows of weakness overdone or used too often. I don’t mind though if my husband sometimes tells me about something that’s bothering him or a problem he’s having at work. If I can help him, even if just by listening, I don’t mind doing so. No one can be perfectly strong all the time.

  12. Generally, I’m brutally vulnerable. I don’t cry a lot, but I don’t hide much either. I always resented guys that could keep their mess together so well and have all their ducks in a row all the time. Maybe I just have had too much “stuff” happen to me over the years and it broke me down, I feel like that a lot still and I’m 41. I’m not the train wreck, yard sale I used to be but I often think my wife married me as a project husband that she could put back together, sad thing is how much I needed that. I think I would have been an alpha, in another life.

  13. That is one area in which I did get a blue pill. Boys born in Melbourne, Australia in 1955 did not get too many blue pills. But I do remember being told that girls like polite boys, which might have been sort of true in 1972 in Australia. But I also got the idea that women like a bit of vulnerability. That seems not to be the case, and reading between the lines of 30-Something’s response, I think she would concur.

    I have had the occasional emotional moment, but it is probably just as well I am a bit cool, because we have had some trying experiences. My wife sometimes refers to my slightly autistic coldness, but in a way that strongly suggests she likes it. I actually said recently, “I’m a nice guy”, and she assured me I am not. (I am.)

    30-Something, I am curious. You seem to post at unusual times. Are you in England or America or South Africa or Australia? Just say if you are. No need for more info.

  14. Dalrock says:

    @empathologicalism

    Does the vulnerability thing work for married men? I think Im not out of line asking that since I thought the point wasnt to celebrate PUArtistry, but to apply game to LTR at least, married at best.

    I would not think that me playing the vulnerability feint would do much, after 22 years that may be laughable.
    Genuine curiosity is it applicable?

    I’m of the general view that understanding is a good thing, even if it isn’t a readily usable tool. I think the key takeaway for married men is not to be surprised if a little vulnerability receives a positive response, and more importantly not to assume that more will be even more positive. The power is in the contrast, not the actual vulnerability. This probably sounds obvious now, but how many women would tell you that they find vulnerable men attractive not understanding the true mechanism?

    Actually if that’s what you think , with respect, you don’t get it.
    Anyway, nuff bout dat

    Fair enough.

  15. dana says:

    my husband is so stoic in pain and sickness that any moment of vulnerability that allows me to take care of him even for a second feels magical, like i’ve gotten a unicorn to lay his head in my lap. that any woman would scorn this as weakness in an otherwise strong, virile man astonishes me

  16. dana, hello from CL’s site. I feel like we are all on what we Australians call a pub crawl (moving from bar to bar).

    Lovely image of the unicorn. But when this unicorn gets sick, my wife still slings the hash, but she doesn’t like nursing me one little bit.

    Dalrock, good reminder about the contrast. There was a poster that was popular here a few years ago of a powerfully built man holding a tiny baby. Women loved it. But it was the contrast. As we are all starting to understand, “I like a sensitive guy” means “I like a guy who is sensitive sometimes but tough most of the time”.

  17. Jennifer says:

    Amen, Dana!

    Spouses also need to know when to leave each other alone during sick days. My friend Luke said it was hard to shake off his then-gf when he was sick; he’d be throwing up in the bathroom telling her to go away, but she’d be saying, “But I love you..” and hovering for a minute nearby to see if he needed help. I’m the same. When I’m sick in certain ways, I need to curl up alone in my discomfort like an animal in a den, even if I’m in pain; my husband will need to know I don’t want to be comforted then.

  18. 30-Something Woman says:

    I definitely am not attracted to sensitive guys. I sure wouldn’t want a guy blubbering all over me. My husband has never cried in my presence. Crying because of something serious like the death of a close friend or family member would be understandable, but crying because of a bad day would just be wimpy. It’s fine though if my husband shares something he’s worried or uncertain about. So a little vulnerability is fine, but too much says “mama’s boy / wuss”.

    David, I’m in America. I’m usually posting between kid stuff. If I’m posting late at night (in my time zone), I’m probably up with a child who is sick, teething, or just refusing to sleep. In that case, I’m typing one-handed while rocking.

  19. 30-Something Woman says:

    Dalrock, I’m going to have to watch Unbreakable again to see if I catch all this. My husband would be thrilled to watch it with me. It’s one of his favorite movies!

  20. Hermit says:

    “I think the key takeaway for married men is not to be surprised if a little vulnerability receives a positive response, and more importantly not to assume that more will be even more positive.”

    I love to cuddle, but my wife hates it. If I try to, it’s a huge DLV for me and I can tell it pushes her away (physicaly and emotionally), and if I don’t try then it will never happen. However, last week I was feeling sick which is very rare for me. As I lay there feeling very uncomfortable, my wife comes up and cuddles into me and makes me feel so much better. I played it perfectly, and a couple days later I was able to get extra gropey with her, and the protests were only half-hearted.

  21. 30-Something Woman says:

    Oh, I love cuddling! He’s got to be in the dominant position though. When he’s holding me and I’m snuggled into his chest, that’s great. Does your wife not like any cuddling, or just certain kinds?

  22. My wife loves cuddling, and I comply, but she has to be in the submissive position. I like to tease her that she is a rib trying to return to its original home.

  23. @ 30 Something,

    I mostly didn’t cry so much as have nervous breakdowns. I would actually run into the woods after dark when I was 4 and 5 to get away from my dad, hide in my neighbors house. Like I say, I envy guys that can hold all their shit together, but for the longest time that wasn’t me. Oh well, it’s part of my testimony and I would rather that than as a tool to achieve a greater degree of “alpha”. I used to really hate myself for the vulnerability, like I said, I would prefer respect to sympathy and it seems like at a certain point you only get one or the other.

  24. 30-Something Woman says:

    David, that’s cute! I read an article a while back by a crazy feminist saying that women need to change any “submissive” gestures or ways of interacting with others. She felt when holding hands the woman’s hand should be in the front because that is where the man’s hand usually is. She also thought women shouldn’t snuggle against a man’s chest, and should sprawl in their chairs like men sometimes do. I can’t remember all the other stuff she said. I can’t imagine even trying to act like she wants. That would be so unnatural.

    Cuddling makes me feel protected and cared for. It doesn’t make me see my husband as vulnerable, but instead as the strong man I can lean on.

  25. 30-Something Woman says:

    I Art Laughing, I’m sorry, I was talking in general. I really wasn’t pointing that at you. If you have/had problems related to childhood trauma, that’s totally different. Obviously, that’s something you had to work through, and wasn’t at all your fault.

    What I was really talking about was the “sensitive guys” who cry at sad movies, or will do fake crying at church or a friend’s wedding or something to show how “sensitive” they are. The guys who were trying to get the US Republican nomination for president were a prime example of this. How many of them cried (or pretended to) at that stupid Thanksgiving Family Forum they had? They thought they were scoring “sensitive” points with female voters, but it just made them look pathetic. An amazing number of preachers do this as well.

    Having something real to cry about is different. I used the example of the death of close friend or family member, but issues from childhood abuse would fit into that serious-enough-to-cry-about category as well.

  26. Yes, I know what your saying. This kind of thing rubs me a little raw. If you can hold it together why would you want to act otherwise. I’ve never been an “emo” type.

  27. I once read a book by a feminist arguing that women should try not to use names for themselves that are too feminine-sounding. The book gave me a huge laugh.

  28. Cane Caldo says:

    I need to curl up alone in my discomfort like an animal in a den

    I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

  29. will says:

    For a person who cries easily. Its hard for me not to show vulnerability. Once the waterworks are on its hard to stop. What advice is there for me to better control my emotions and keep showing my tough side?

  30. Cane Caldo says:

    @Will

    My guess is there are only a few scenarios that cause this to take place.

    1) There is some problem in your life that you’re not addressing. It’s an over-arching, inescapable problem, like a harmful worldview, or a horrible roommate/spouse/parent.
    2) You’re depressed. You either have a naturally-occurring chemical imbalance, or your decisions have imbalanced your chemicals.
    3) You want to be this way. You give yourself credit for being “real”, and have an Oprah-inspired idea that you should have no regrets; that “everything bad you’ve experienced or done is what made you what you are today”–as if you are so great. There is cognitive dissonance in your life because you tell yourself you’re awesome, but you would frown at another with the same track-record.
    4) All of the above.

    Do you exercise? Do you get enough sleep? Do you eat healthily? What do you believe in, and how have you exercised that belief?

  31. Some men cry easily. Bob Hawke, a much respected and rather macho recent Australian PM, was always doing it.

    I don’t think it is the extremes of mood that define a man. Nor do I think he has to be unpleasant in person. If he can generally keep his head, that is enough.

    Suppose your son cuts his foot badly. If your wife panics; you stay calm and do what needs to be done; that is good. That is the kind of thing she wants. If you can administer the occasional firm rebuke, that is good. If you can listen to her hormonal tirades and keep cool, that is good.

  32. Hermit says:

    @ 30 “Does your wife not like any cuddling, or just certain kinds?” Pretty much none, not unless she’s feeling really needy (rarely). Even then, it’s short lived.

  33. I think our marriage pretty much runs on cuddles.

    I wrote this a while back (it was meant to be a joke – some people are very literal-minded):

    http://davidcollard.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/forced-affection-in-marriage/

    She loves her cuddles, but she doesn’t really like kissy-kissy-moo-moo when we are vertical. But I sometimes give her a good smack on the arse, just in passing, so she knows she is alive.

  34. MackPUA says:

    All of the above anecdotes begs the question …

    If women dont like men showing vulnerability, so where are they getting their oxcytocin fix from?

  35. Hermit says:

    “where are they getting their oxcytocin fix from”
    Your paycheck, watching you mow the lawn/wrestle with the kids…

  36. Oxytocin for women? Not sure. I think from sex and bodily contact in general.

    MackPUA, I think you are thinking like a man. When you cuddle a woman, you are not showing vulnerability. She is. When I cuddle her, I am not necessarily thinking cuddly thoughts. She is. I could be thinking about anything. Or nothing in particular. Sometimes I say things to tease her, or make grossly “sexist” remarks for fun. It is a good time to extract sex, or abject promises of sex.

  37. Hermit says:

    “When I cuddle her, I am not necessarily thinking cuddly thoughts.”

    The problem is, when I cuddle her, I am thinking cuddly thoughts, she’s thinking “I married this guy?” It differs for every relationship.

  38. Yeah, I know, Hermit. But I really do think, in this instance, that I am in the majority.

    Do you know the Billy Connolly joke? It goes:

    No man ever said to his mates at the pub, “I have to rush off home. My wife has promised me a cuddle”.

  39. Hermit says:

    Unless cuddle is a euphemism…

  40. Billy Connolly and the boozing Scotsmen he jokes about do not do euphemism.

  41. Comment_Whatever says:

    Is vulnerability appreciated in a washing machine or a car? No?

    Then why would women or rich people want emotions…. I mean vulnerability….. in the Shoe and Boat production units?

    Also, some of the “toughest” people…. come from the least masculine European countries and are terrible warriors. They also tend to be petty in the extreme. These are my observations, I don’t really care that “it’s not really like that”.

    That is not to say that vulnerability doesn’t work… at specific points….. on women. Most women would like stoic men, it’s just that WHAT WOMEN WANT is only somewhat related to being a man.

  42. Re: Male tears

    I have to be an outlier again. My tears flow freely in one place and one place alone – when I am face to face with my Maker in the Divine Services. It is kind of embarrassing to those who were raised in Holy Orthodoxy to see someone displaying such extreme emotions but I really can’t help it. It took me 60 years to find my spiritual home after wandering the arid places of non-Christian religions and then modern Evangelicalism.

    My wife wonders about it too, but the Orthodox Jesus is such a man’s man. He took the fight onto the Devil’s turf, squared off against him man to angel, and kicked his infernal ass. Between Pascha (Ortho Easter) and Pentecost, we have a hymn where the angel is declaring to the most Holy Mother of God the news about the Resurrection of her Son. Handbells are distributed to the children in the church and when the hymn is begin, the children are encouraged to ring the bells with all their might. The floodgates inevitably open and remain so for the remainder of the service. They usually subside before the coffee hour.

    If this makes me less of a man and less of a Christian, I’ll just have to learn to live with that.

  43. Brendan says:

    Vulnerability needs to be calibrated to the specific woman, both in terms of amounts *and* in terms of “acceptable context”, which will differ somewhat from woman to woman. But keep in mind that it is a “spice”, rather than the main course. If you add too much of the spice, overall, you’re going to drown out the main course of masculinity, and it will leave an unpleasant taste in your wife’s mouth. So use it sparingly. The amount may be a little more or a little less depending on the woman, and the context in which is works also depends on the woman, but remember that it is a spice rather than the main course in who you are, and who you present, to the woman.

    Asinus — That specific context is likely less troubling to women due to the nature of it, although some of that would also depend on your wife’s attitude towards Orthodoxy in general and her own feelings/experiences about the issue. It’s less likely, it seems to me, that this would come across as weakness or wussiness, due to the specific context, than it would be if it were more widespread than this context, or happening in “less serious” settings (like sad movies, for example — nothing drives most women nuts with disgust more than a man who cries at sad movies).

  44. poester99 says:

    Oh yeah, the Roissy “tell an insane story about being scared of bunnies” scheme. Even something real like vulnerability has to be slapped with the game label and done in careful calculated amounts.

    It’s a very good point. I can’t stand getting endless tales of woe from even a male friend in more than measured doses. It’s probably even more so when you’re being measured as a potential mate

  45. Cane Caldo says:

    Good analogy, Brendan. I left this comment at Elspeth’s last week:

    I’m Anglican now, but I still miss the Southern Baptist churches of my youth; besides, Anglican’s can’t do potluck to save their lives.

    Once every other year or so, we sing “Just As I Am”, and I get taken back. Sometimes Mrs. Caldo plays old hymns on Pandora to see if I’ll get teary. That’s dirty pool.

  46. Oh yeah, the Roissy “tell an insane story about being scared of bunnies” scheme. Even something real like vulnerability has to be slapped with the game label and done in careful calculated amounts.

    It’s a very good point. I can’t stand getting endless tales of woe from even a male friend in more than measured doses. It’s probably even more so when you’re being measured as a potential mate
    ——————————————————————————————

    Last one to be defending her, but, you missed her point completely. She wasnt objecting to whether or not it be measured out in small doses, she was objecting to the decision to be vulnerable or not being included in the endless derivations of game

  47. 30-Something Woman says:

    How often a man can get away with crying without appearing weak might depend on how often his woman cries. I don’t cry often – the last time was probably 2 or 3 years ago. My husband has only cried once that I know of in 13 years of marriage. It happened when he was in the hospital visiting his dying uncle. I wasn’t present. So maybe as long as the man is crying less often than his wife he won’t seem weak to her?

  48. 30-Something Woman says:

    *at the hospital, not in

  49. 30-Something Woman says:

    I think David is right – cuddling isn’t vulnerability for a man, as long as he isn’t in the typically female position. It makes me feel safe, probably because it’s a physical reminder of the fact that he is larger and stronger than I am. Also, HE cuddles ME. I don’t cuddle him.

    Hermit, I hope you have a pet to get your cuddling fix from. 😀

  50. Rone says:

    It definitely depends on time,place and circumstance. Not long ago when my wife and I had a financial setback, I made a joke that didn’t go over well. I playfully put on a “woe is me” voice and said “What are we going to do?”

    It scared the daylights out of her. She snapped to attention and said I needed to be more optimistic because we had to make it work. I told her I was joking around, but I’m sure I accidentally made myself unattractive to her in that situation.

    So when it comes to safety and security, we don’t have the same luxury of showing our vulnerabilities.

  51. MackPUA says:

    Women arent wired to find vulnerable men attractive, which is why it only serves to act as a contrast to his masculinity

    Real vulnerable men, are invisible to women, to the point of revulsion …

    Also its important to realise, men cant handle being emotional, which is why they resort to a stiff upper lip, & prefer solitude to work out their turmoil

    Unless you prefer a hole in your wall & smashed chairs, encouraging men to be in touch with something their biology is not made to handle is a bad idea …

    We see the exact same thing happening with boys, born to single mothers, feminist brainwashed idiots, encourage their masculine alpha boys to be in touch with their feelings, & you have furniture demolished & walls defaced, as the child tries to come to terms with his masculinity …

  52. Don’t know if anyone said it before, but it actually is a movie about superheroes, and drowning in water that was just his “hero weakness”. Not really any calculated display of vunerability game for anyone…

  53. Pingback: How much should a husband share with his wife? | Dalrock

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